Protecting unique and special employment rights of Native Americans

TERO Commissioners Tisha McLean, Ryan Gobin, Helen Gobin-Henson, Eliza Davis and Dale Jones. Photo/Micheal Rios
TERO Commissioners Tisha McLean, Ryan Gobin, Helen Gobin-Henson, Eliza Davis and Dale Jones.
Photo/Micheal Rios


by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Within the past four decades, Tribal governments have made tremendous strides in identifying and protecting the rights, resources and opportunities of their people. Tribes are effectively exercising self-governance to protect their water, timber, hunting, fishing and gaming rights in order to garner maximum economic returns and opportunities from the use of their resources. This type of effective advocacy is being brought to the protection and assertion of Indian and Native Employment and contracting rights by approximately 300 Tribal and Alaska Native village governments that have established Tribal Employment Rights Ordinances and TERO enforcement programs (source: Pacific Northwest TERO).

Here at the Tulalip Tribes we are fortunate enough to have a fully staffed TERO department that is knowledgeable and well-equipped to protect the unique and special employment rights of Native Americans. Tulalip TERO is a member of the Pacific Northwest TERO region, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, and portions of Nevada and Alaska. Our national organization is the Council for Tribal Employment Rights. We are also fortunate to have the Tulalip TERO Commission comprised of Chairman Dale Jones, Vice-Chairperson Helen Gobin-Henson, Secretary Tisha McLean and Commission members Eliza Davis and Ryan Gobin.

Together, the TERO department and TERO Commission serve to access more employment and training opportunities for Native Americans and their families, and to provide more business and economic opportunities for businesses owned by Native Americans. Since the unemployment rate in Native communities remains high, Tribes must take strong actions to protect the employment rights of Native American people.

In protecting the employment rights of Tulalip citizens, the Tulalip TERO department and Commission administrate the TERO Program to enforce and ensure workforce protections, preferential employment and contracting rights. They assist and refer clients for education, training and services to succeed and enhance their career and economic opportunities. Their mission is to ensure preference in employment, contracting and economic opportunities, while providing vocational training opportunities with the outcome of employment.

The current TERO structure in place has been widely successful, evident in the current Tulalip preference scale found in the Central Employment hiring guidelines and the ever expanding vocational training center that has made employment dreams a reality for so many tribal members.

As the Tulalip Tribes, tribal membership, and policies continue to evolve, so does the social and political climate for Tulalip TERO. Each member of the TERO Commission, each a Tulalip tribal member, has a different set of objectives they would like to see achieved in 2015.


TERO Commission objectives to accomplish in 2015:

Dale Jones works for Tulalip’s Elders Program and is Chairman of the TERO Commission: “Equal employment and an equal wage for all of our tribal members. That’s the reason I’m here. I hear of a lot of discrepancies in hiring, people getting promoted in our tribe without advertisement. I want to put a stop to that. Can’t keep putting our head under the table and say everything is going to be okay.”


Helen Gobin-Henson works as the program manager of the Care Giver and CHR program and is Vice-Chairperson of the TERO Commission: “I would like to make sure that all the contracts given out don’t go to just one business. That’s what I feel is happening today. Every time there is a contract it just goes to the same business owner. And I want to make sure that Indian preference is enforced in the hiring process because that doesn’t always happen. The other thing is I want is for TERO tax to be the law that is upheld.”


Tisha McLean works as the executive assistant for Adult Services and is Secretary of the TERO Commission: “When I first got on the Commission I wanted to bring more training to our people. I know the tribe has worked on that with Admin, but there are a lot of other trainings that our tribal members who aren’t working could be doing. The tribe has done really great with our vocational training center and the construction classes they are offering to our tribal members who aren’t getting jobs. That then ties in with the preference code. There are tons of jobs that are currently filled with non-tribal members that tribal members could be in. It’s my opinion that every position within the tribe could be filled with a tribal member. If they aren’t currently eligible for a position then they need to be worked with to let them know what areas they need to improve because Central Employment isn’t doing that. They just say you aren’t eligible because of this or that, but they need to be telling them why and what they could do to better themselves to become eligible for future positions. They aren’t doing that and we are seeing more non-tribals fill entry level/front line positions, these position should be filled with tribal members.”


Ryan Gobin works as a Tulalip police officer and is a TERO Commission member: “My main goal is to try to help with fairness in business, so that everybody gets an opportunity, so that not just certain peoples and certain families get certain jobs and certain contracts. My goal is to create fairness across the board. While on the Commission I’ve also gained more of an interest in training, like what we’ve been doing with the vocational training center. It’s been a huge success and I’m proud to be a part of it.”


Eliza Davis works as a Native American liaison for the Marysville School District and is a TERO Commission member: “I would say my main objective is to see our TERO code be upheld like it should. Also, I’m very excited about the vocational training center. It’s a huge opportunity for our tribe and for the whole region really, to have our TERO be a part of something that big.”


While the objectives may vary from person to person, the overall goal is the same; to protect the employments rights of Tulalip citizens while providing them with the training and education to improve career and economic opportunities.


Tulalip TERO contact information

Direct line, 360-716-4747

Lynne Bansemer, TERO Client  Services Coordinator, 360-716-4746

Tory Chuckulnaskit, TERO Manager, 360-716-4750

Teri Gobin, Director, 360-716-4743

Linda Henry, Administrative Assistant, 360-716-4744

Ginny Ramos, TERO Compliance Officer, 360-716-4749

Robert Henderson, TERO  Compliance Officer, 360-716-4751



Contact Micheal Rios at

Putting Native Vets to Work, IHS Launches Veterans Hiring Initiative



Indian Health Service Release


The Indian Health Service (IHS) has launched a Veterans Hiring Initiative with the goal of increasing veteran new hires from 6 percent to 9 percent over the next two years. Veterans hired by the agency would increase by 50 percent with this initiative.

The IHS will recruit veterans by setting hiring goals, engaging in active outreach, and using existing and new partnerships to create additional career opportunities. Earlier this year, the IHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to assist veterans in finding employment and help achieve President Obama’s National Strategy to Hire More Veterans.

As part of its Veterans Hiring Initiative, the IHS will collaborate with the VA on federal recruitment events targeting veterans. Additionally, the IHS will partner with the Department of Defense on recruitment of separating active duty service members through the Transition Assistance Program and through marketing and media outreach campaigns. The IHS will also partner with tribes in recruitment outreach efforts targeted at tribal members who are active duty or veterans. Finally, the IHS is developing its own nationwide public service announcement radio and print campaign customized to markets with large populations of military personnel.

RELATED: Veteran Affairs Expanding Access and Visibility for Native Vets

The agency website will be updated with more resources and information for veteran candidates, and the IHS will post recruitment information on the Native American Veterans website hosted by the VA. The IHS will also be interviewing veterans who have successfully transitioned from the military to the IHS or tribal positions and post these stories on IHS and partner organization websites.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who are members of federally recognized tribes.



On the Heels of Historic Presidential Visit to Indian Country, Secretary Jewell Announces Interior Initiatives to Support Tribal-led Economic Development

Infrastructure easements, land leasing efficiency, and market improvements part of package to strengthen Tribal self-determination and create jobs 

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s commitment to support tribal self-governance and self-determination, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced a package of regulatory initiatives intended to help tribal leaders spur investment opportunities and economic development in Indian Country.

Highlighted by the President during his historic visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe last week, the Department’s actions will help remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure and energy development in Indian Country; increase tribal community access to expanded, high-speed Internet resources via broadband; eliminate leasing impediments to land development; and support the growth of new markets for Native American and Alaska Native businesses.

“Over the 14 months on the job, I’ve had the great privilege of visiting just as many tribal reservations,” said Secretary Jewell, who chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “Last week, on the heels of the President’s visit to Indian Country, I joined Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault on a tour of his tribal lands.  As Secretary, I have seen first-hand both economic success stories and the dramatic challenges tribes still face to generate employment and develop infrastructure within Indian Country.”

Jewell further said, “While some tribes are experiencing economic progress in recent years, many others continue to face formidable economic hardship. Providing greater deference to tribes under the principles of self-determination and improving our federal regulations to meet the needs of the 21st century means we can help remove some of these barriers to economic development on tribal lands and lay a solid foundation for economic development as well as improve the quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives in their homelands.”

The package of Interior regulatory initiatives includes:

Facilitating Indian Country Infrastructure Development
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is proposing new regulations for issuing “right-of-way” approvals on Indian land for all purposes. The rule would modernize and streamline the process for obtaining BIA approval for infrastructure development, providing tribal leaders, private companies, utility firms and energy developers greater certainty when designing or implementing infrastructure, including expanded Internet capacity through broadband access, transmission lines, and water, road and energy projects.

The new regulations propose strict timelines for BIA approval of all requests; eliminate the need for BIA approval of pre-development surveys, and limit the situations in which BIA may disapprove a right-of-way, all in an effort to provide faster approvals of right-of-way applications, facilitating economic development and greater deference to tribal priorities.

Removing Barriers to Land Development through Increased Tribal Self-governance
The BIA will conduct a series of training sessions to help tribal leaders implement the Helping Expedite & Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act.  When a tribal business needs to build a factory or a family wants to purchase a new home on a reservation, the lease generally requires BIA approval.  Since 2012, however, the HEARTH Act provides tribes the opportunity to establish and enforce their own land leasing regulations in order to expedite the process for long-term leasing of tribal trust lands for residential, business, renewable energy and other purposes. Twenty-one tribes have submitted proposals to assume leasing responsibilities, and 12 have already received approvals for their regulations.  The new BIA training supports tribal self-governance by helping to increase the number of tribes able to control leases on their land without BIA approval.  This builds on Interior’s progress in strengthening tribal control over tribal resources.

Supporting the Growth of New Markets for Native American and Alaska Native Small Businesses 
Interior’s Indian Affairs bureaus and offices will increase federal procurement opportunities by issuing a new directive improving implementation of the Buy Indian Act and increasing Indian Affairs’ procurement purchases from Native American-owned small businesses by 10 percent. The Buy Indian Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to set aside certain qualifying acquisitions for American Indian-and Alaska Native-owned and controlled small businesses. These purchasing contracts issued by Indian Affairs offices and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education will help increase economic activity and provide greater employment opportunities in Indian Country.

“Underlying these initiatives is the Administration’s firm belief that tribal leaders must have a seat at the table,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “These initiatives we are announcing are part of a coordinated federal effort outlined by the President that builds on the significant progress this Administration has made in partnering with tribes on a nation-to-nation basis to promote prosperous and resilient communities.”

Assistant Secretary Washburn Announces New Initiative to Hire More American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans to Work for Indian Affairs

Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of President Obama’s historic visit yesterday to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North and South Dakota, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced the implementation of a new initiative to hire more American Indian and Alaska Native veterans to work for Indian Affairs.

In building a 21st century workforce, we recognize the importance of attracting and retaining veterans in this organization,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “Individuals who have served in the Armed Forces have a proven track record for integrity, discipline and leadership, and are highly qualified candidates in a variety of occupations throughout Indian Affairs.”

To achieve the goal of hiring more American Indian and Alaska Native veterans throughout Indian Affairs offices and bureaus, Washburn announced plans to increase the number of Indian veterans hired from the current rate of 9 percent to 12.5 percent.

Indian Affairs bureaus, regional offices and agencies provide a wide range of direct services to American Indian and Alaska Natives and already utilize an Indian Preference policy in hiring. Nearly 100 percent of the positions in the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education are staffed with American Indian and Alaska Native employees through Indian Preference. Indian Affairs officials are interested in hiring veterans prior to their discharge from the Armed Forces and are actively seeking members of the National Guard and reserves who are looking for careers that serve Indian Country.

Steps that will be taken to achieve the new initiative include:

  • Increasing participation in job fairs targeting veterans;
  • Establishing a presence on the website to highlight success stories of veterans already working in Indian Affairs;
  • Utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote accomplishments of veterans in Indian Affairs and alert prospects of the availability of open positions;
  • Leveraging resources with other DOI agencies that have been successful in recruiting veterans to develop new strategies for attracting veterans to employment opportunities within Indian Affairs;
  • Working with local veterans groups, especially Native American veterans groups, in the field to publish employment opportunities with Indian Affairs;
  • Using the website to highlight positions of interest to veterans that will utilize their skills gained in military service; and
  • Developing a Senior Executive Service (SES) performance element targeting increases in veteran hires in positions within Indian Affairs offices and bureaus.

For more information about the DOI Indian Affairs’ hire the American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Initiative, please visit our website at or call:

Nancy Nelson, Human Resources Specialist, Indian Affairs Office of Human Capital Management, at (202) 208-6175.

The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs assists and supports the Secretary of the Interior in fulfilling the United States’ trust responsibility to the federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, villages and individual trust beneficiaries. The Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM) oversees human resources management, policy and operations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Educationand the Assistant Secretary  Indian Affairs. The Office of Human Capital Management reports to the Deputy Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs – Management within the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs.

Twenty-two Certified to Help American Indians Improve Workplace Skills

The twenty-two newly-certified instructors for the Workin’ with Tradition workplace skills training program
The twenty-two newly-certified instructors for the Workin’ with Tradition workplace skills training program

Source: Native News Network

PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA – Twenty-two individuals from five South Dakota reservations were certified as course instructors for “Workin’ with Tradition,” a training program that helps individuals in rural Native American communities prepare for successful employment. The instructor certification course was sponsored by the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance, a group of community partners dedicated to growing Indian business throughout the state.

“Because of the way the reservation system was initially set up, Native communities had not had any kind of economy to speak of for several generations. Now we are starting to see businesses sprout up, and we have a new set of challenges to deal with,” says Stacey LaCompte, Standing Rock Sioux, SDIBA Secretary/Treasurer, who helped administer the training. With unemployment rates documented as high as 85 percent in some South Dakota reservation communities, business owners struggle in their hiring efforts due to a lack of qualified candidates.

“Economic development in Indian Country is not solely about helping businesses start up. The “Workin’ with Tradition” workshop is addressing the next step – after businesses grow to the point where they need to hire employees,” says LaCompte.

Many business owners in reservation communities that find it difficult to recruit and retain experienced employees are also having a hard time maintaining any growth their company experiences, and that impact extends out into the larger economy.

“The simple fact is that reservations just don’t have a history that has invested in their workforce, so this workshop is turning that around.” LaCompte continued.

The newly-certified instructors, who are from various non-profit organizations, tribal and state programs, and other employers, will be able to deliver the “Workin’ with Tradition” course in order to help individuals develop the interpersonal skills necessary for entering into and advancing in the workforce. Seven of the workshop participants received scholarships from SDIBA to help with the costs of the certification and have committed to delivering a total of at least nine workshops within their respective communities over the next year.

“This training brought out a lot of confidence in the participants. I noticed people turning from shy to assertive. If this training can give the working class confidence, can you imagine what it will do for the job-seekers?” says LaCompte.

The “Workin’ with Tradition” curriculum is part of the nationally recognized “Workin’ It Out” program developed by Dr. Steve Parese. “Workin’ with Tradition” was developed in partnership with Dr. Steve Parese and Opportunity Link, a non-profit organization with a focus on community development, with input from Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, Chippewa Cree Tribe, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community.

The curriculum is designed to address the unique challenges American Indians job-seekers face on and off reservations while maintaining the integrity of their Native culture. The “Workin’ with Tradition” instructor certification program is now being delivered throughout the country.

The Dream of Martin Luther King Jr. & Jobs in Indian Country

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a dream that many American Indians, along with other ethnic groups, continue to hope for.

It would be interesting to track American Indian unemployment since the March on Washington August 28, 1963, and compare it to the rates for African Americans and the country as a whole (national unemployment for 1963 was 5.7 percent). Unfortunately, it is not possible, as the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics seems not to have reported this stat on Native populations until 2003.

As King said in 1963, “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned,” still holds true today.

Since 2003 (also the first year that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders weren’t lumped into the “Asian” category) American Indians have consistently tracked slightly behind African Americans for the dubious honor of the racial group with the most unemployment. (A BLS study reports white and African American unemployment back to 1972, Hispanics back to 1973, and Asians to 2000.)

For 2011, the latest year in the BLS study “Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity,” one in seven American Indians (14.6 percent) were unemployed, according to BLS. African Americans showed 15.8 percent unemployment, while Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (who include native populations on Guam and American Samoa) came in at 10.4 percent, higher than the national average of 8.9 percent.

The BLS measures national rates. Unemployment rates on individual Indian reservations can be much higher. In 2010, 47 percent of people on the Navajo reservation were unemployed, according to the tribe. At the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota, 80 percent are unemployed, according to the tribe.

The Indian employment situation since the recession ended in 2009 has been mixed. Indian unemployment for 2011 was down from 15.1 percent in 2010 but actually up from 2009, which was at 13.3 percent.

The BLS said American Indians and Alaska Natives made up about one percent of the labor force in 2011, and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders less than one percent. In terms of participation in the labor force, an interesting mix was recorded. Indians had the lowest participation in the work force in 2011, 59.2 percent, while Native Hawaiians had the highest, 69.4 percent—higher even than the white population, which registered 64.5 percent.

Indian participation in the workforce has decreased from 64.4 percent in 2003, while it has increased for Native Hawaiians during that same time period. It was 68.9 percent in 2003.

Indians also brought up the rear in the category of the percentage of the population employed, at 50.5 percent. Native Hawaiians were first in this category as well, at 62.2 percent (that’s also higher than the one for whites, which is 59.9 percent).

Breaking out unemployment by numbers, 1.2 million of a 2 million “civilian noninstitutional population” of Indians were in the labor force in 2011. Of that number, one million were employed (564,000 men and 464,000 women) and 172,000 were unemployed. BLS found 816,000 Indians were not in the labor force. Unemployment for Indian men in 2011 was 15.4 percent and 13.7 percent for Indian women.

For Native Hawaiians, 393,000 of a labor force of 439,000 (total population was 633,000) were employed in 2011, according to BLS. Men had a higher unemployment rate, at 11.4 percent. Native Hawaiian women had an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent.

The BLS report includes many other categories of analysis, but in many categories, Indians and Native Hawaiians are just skipped. These include earnings, education, occupation and industry, and families and mothers. One analysis which ignores Natives starts by saying “Among the major race and ethnicity groups,” indicating they are considered not a major group. Sometimes Natives get lumped into “other groups.”

Like Census Bureau counts of Indian populations, some dispute the accuracy of the BLS unemployment figures. According to the National Congress of American Indians, “The BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] concept of unemployment is different than that used by BLS and Census. Persons are considered “unemployed” by BIA if they are available for work, but not employed. This approach is a more realistic one in view of the economic circumstances in reservation areas than is the definition of unemployment in the BLS and Census Bureau data which requires that a person be “actively seeking work” to be designated unemployed.”

NCAI says unemployment in Indian areas “often stands at above 50 percent.” The advocacy group says “tribal nations continue to experience unemployment rates well above the national average, and rates of unemployment are exacerbated by economic conditions, endemic poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and marginal education opportunities.”

NCAI points to two particular pieces of pending legislation—the American Jobs Act and the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act—as potentially being helpful to combat Indian unemployment if they are signed into law. And both could be a decent honor to the 50th anniversary of the job march on Washington D.C.



Concrete Indians Working Hard to Find Work

Duane Champagne, Indian Country Today Media Network

More than two-thirds of American Indians are now living off reservation in urban areas. During World War II, many Indians migrated to urban areas to contribute to manufacturing during the war effort. During the subsequent Cold War period and U.S. economic expansion, Indians were attracted to urban areas, and supported by Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation programs.

Most reservation Indians migrate to urban areas because they need employment to support themselves and their families. Some research indicates that many Indian migrants would remain at their home reservations, if there were enough jobs.

Like most urban migrants, many Indians do not plan to stay in urban places and often maintain ties to their reservation communities. Many return to the reservation to visit during the summers, and many often return for ceremonies. Moving to an urban area does not necessarily mean that tribal members have forgotten their communities and tribal nations.

How well are urban Indians doing? There is no systematic national data about the economic well-being of urban Indians. For the last couple of decades researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and Indian community members within Los Angeles urban Indian organizations have carried on analysis of Indian employment based on U.S. Census data for Los Angeles County. Census data is one of the few places where systematic information about urban Indian employment can be found. In the last Census count of 2010, the data suggest that urban Indians in Los Angeles are among the working poor. The participation of Indians in the Los Angeles County labor force is about 60 percent, and similar to other ethnic groups.

However, American Indians show higher rates of unemployment and have average salaries that are less than half the salaries of non-Hispanic white workers. Los Angeles County urban Indian workers have significantly less job security and are significantly less rewarded for their efforts. Indian workers are willing to work, but often are last hired and first fired, and on average make about $22,000 annual salary. The low level of financial remuneration makes life difficult for many Los Angeles urban Indians because the cost of living in Los Angeles is high.

In contrast to the stereotype of lazy Indian workers, Los Angeles Indian workers are willing to work, but face problems getting and maintaining employment, and find that the economic rewards for working are relatively minimal. Poverty rates for Indians in Los Angeles County are about 22 percent, which are similar to other traditional urban ethnic minorities such as blacks and Latinos.

However, the lower the poverty rates on reservations, which are often above 30 percent, and significantly higher than in urban areas. Urban Indians may be doing better economically on average than reservation Indians, but the economic circumstances for urban Indians, based on the Los Angeles data, suggest urban Indians are struggling economically. While there is a significant urban Indian business community in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, and an emergent middle class, it sometimes takes generations before Indians move up the economic ladder.

The urban area continues to hold a relative economic attraction for reservation Indians. In economic terms, life in urban areas may be better than on reservation, and reservation Indians continue to look for employment in urban areas. The significant employment difficulties for Indians in the urban economic environment suggests why many Indians would prefer to remain on their home reservations, if there was sufficient employment. Tribal communities offer social, cultural and political support, but often offer few stable or enduring economic opportunities. Indian workers are pushed to relatively difficult economic lives in urban areas. The future of tribal nations will depend on culture, community, and political sovereignty, but jobs and economic opportunity for tribal members will play a major role in keeping Indian workers and talent at home and in the service of tribal nations.